Jet lag is a collection of symptoms that occur while your body clock adjusts to a new time zone when you travel. Until you get used to the local time, you may feel disoriented and tired during the day and have difficulty sleeping at the new nighttime. You may also experience poor concentration, loss of appetite, and diarrhoea or constipation. Most people begin to feel the effects of jet lag only after crossing three or more time zones. Travelling from east to west extends the day and is usually easier on the body than travelling from west to east, which shortens the day. People tend to become more susceptible to the effects of jet lag as they get older.
What You Can Do
Although jet lag usually lasts no more than a few days, use these tips to reduce its effects and adjust quickly to the new time zone.
• If possible, fly during the day. You are less likely to feel jet lag if you arrive at your destination in the evening and then stay awake until bedtime.
• Get plenty of rest before you depart: at least 8 hours’ sleep a night in the week before you travel.
• Start adjusting to the new time zone when you begin your journey.
• Drink plenty of water or fruit juice before and during the flight to prevent dehydration, and avoid alcohol, coffee, or cola drinks. Eat light meals and avoid fatty or salty foods.
• As soon as you arrive at your destination, adopt the local eating, waking, and sleeping times. Take a walk in daylight to help your body clock adjust.
• Avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks within three hours of bedtime since they will make sleep more difficult.
• Jet lag can affect judgement and concentration, so do not drive until you have adapted to local time.
• If you travel frequently, try using antihistamine pills to relieve temporary sleep disturbances. Alternatively, ask your doctor for a short-acting prescription sleeping pill.
• If you are spending less than two days in a new time zone, you may be better off getting up, eating, and sleeping according to your home time.
• Seek your doctor’s advice before travelling if you have to take prescribed medicines.
Adjusting to time zones. Get used to the new time zone by setting your watch to your destination time as soon as you board the plane. If possible, plan your meals and sleep times around this time during the flight.
• If you need to sleep on the flight, listen to soft music, use earplugs, wear a sleep mask, and use a neck pillow.
• If you need to stay awake, keep active: Get up and walk around the plane every hour, talk to your neighbour, read, or watch the in-flight entertainment.
Seek Medical Advice
Arrange to see your doctor if:
• You are still experiencing symptoms of jet lag two weeks after travelling.